Wednesday, March 11, 2009

High School/College Topic: Disciplines Working Together

10-second review: We have become so used to teaching as separate departments that we have not tried to find ways of working together—to the detriment of our students who do not understand the ways in which different disciplines relate to each other and thus experience a fragmented curriculum.

Title: “What We Say When We Don’t Talk about Creative Writing.” G Graff. College English (January 2009), 271-279. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary/Quote: “We have got so used to the separations between departmental components that these separations seem facts of nature or aspects of the academic condition, if not the human condition. The most damaging impact of these separations is on the curriculum and on students. Ultimately, the separations between departmental areas become reproduced in the separations between our discipline itself—and, by extension, academic culture itself—and our students who lose sight of the larger contexts of their studies as they move from one isolated subfield to another…. We are unlikely to start talking to each other until we start teaching with each other.” 278-279.

Comment: Two thoughts cross my mind—both, missed opportunities.

Separating the language arts. We (representative K-12 teachers and I) defined our K-12 curriculum as separate elements: reading, writing, speaking. literature, vocabulary, work-study skills and media. As far as this type of organization went, teachers knew what they were supposed to teach in each element of the language arts and were happy. For some reason, I never saw that there was a Part II to that separated language curriculum—to find the connections among the separated elements. Sigh!.

Interdisciplinary team teaching. The middle schools in Liverpool, New York, in the late 1960s reorganized their teaching. Six interdisciplinary teams were formed, consisting of one English teacher, one science teacher, one social studies teacher and one math teacher. Each team was given the opportunity to meet together for half the school day for planning and then to teach during the other half of the day.

We (the administrators) had hoped that the teachers of the four major disciplines, meeting together each day, would discuss similarities and differences between and among the disciplines. One team did just that and their teaching reflected their mutual ideas. One team did to some degree. The other four teams continued to teach as four separate disciplines and showed little willingness to communicate. I’m still thinking about the lessons I learned from that experience
. RayS.

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